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Be Prepared for Hurricane Hazards
Hurricanes are among nature's most powerful and destructive phenomena. On average, 12 tropical storms, six of which become hurricanes, form over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea or Gulf of Mexico during the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. Over a typical two-year period, the U.S. coastline is struck by an average of three hurricanes, one of which is classified as a major hurricane (winds of 111 mph or greater).
While hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property, tropical storms and depression also can be devastating. The primary hazards from tropical cyclones (which include tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes) are storm surge flooding, inland flooding from heavy rains, destructive winds, tornadoes, and high surf and rip currents.
Storm surge is the abnormal rise of water generated by a storm's winds. This hazard is historically the leading cause of hurricane-related deaths in the United States. Storm surge and large battering waves can result in large loss of life and cause massive destruction along the coast.
Storm surge can travel several miles inland, especially along bays, rivers and estuaries.
Flooding from heavy rains is the second leading cause of fatalities from landfalling tropical cyclones. Widespread torrential rains associated with these storms often cause flooding hundreds of miles inland. This flooding can persist for several days after a storm has dissipated.
Winds from a hurricane can destroy buildings and manufactured homes. Signs, roofing material and other items left outside can become flying missiles during hurricanes.
Tornadoes can accompany landfalling tropical cyclones. These tornadoes typically occur in rain bands well away from the center of the storm.
Dangerous waves produced by a tropical cyclone's strong winds can pose a significant hazard to coastal residents and mariners. These waves can cause deadly rip currents, significant beach erosion, and damage to structures along the coastline, even when the storm is more than a 1,000 miles offshore.
Preparing for a Hurricane
The best time to prepare for a hurricane is before hurricane season begins on June 1. It is vital to understand your home's vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind. Here is your checklist of things to do BEFORE hurricane seasons begins.
- Know your zone: Do you live near the Gulf or Atlantic Coasts? Find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation area by contacting your local government/emergency management office.
- Put Together an Emergency Kit: Put together a basic emergency kit. Check emergency equipment, such as flashlights, generators and storm shutters.
- Write or review your Family Emergency Plan: Before an emergency happens, sit down with your family or close friends and decide how you will get in contact with each other, where you will go and what you will do in an emergency. Keep a copy of this plan in your emergency supplies kit or another safe place where you can access it in the event of a disaster. Start at the Ready.Gov emergency plan webpage.
- Review Your Insurance Policies: Review your insurance policies to ensure that you have adequate coverage for your home and personal property.
- Understand National Weather Service forecast products, especially the meaning of NWS watches and warnings.
When a Hurricane Is Imminent
When a hurricane threatens your community, be prepared to evacuate if you live in a storm surge risk area. Allow enough time to pack and inform friends and family if you need to leave your home.
- Secure your home: Cover all of your home's windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8-inch exterior grade or marine plywood, built to fit and ready to install. Buy supplies before the hurricane season rather than waiting for the pre-storm rush.
- Stay tuned in: Check the websites of your local National Weather Service office and local government/emergency management office. Find out what type of emergencies could occur and how you should respond. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or other radio or TV stations for the latest storm news.
- Follow instructions issued by local officials. Leave immediately if ordered!
- If NOT ordered to evacuate:
- Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level during the storm. Put as many walls between you and the outside as you can.
- Stay away from windows, skylights and glass doors.
- If the eye of the storm passes over your area, there will be a short period of calm, but at the other side of the eye, the wind speed rapidly increases to hurricane force winds coming from the opposite direction.